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Conservation Medicine and Recognition of a Pathogenic Fungus in the Timber Rattlesnake, Crotalus hor

Jacobson, Elliott R.

College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL USA

Conservation medicine is an emerging discipline, focusing on the interactions between ecosystem health, animal health, and human health (Aguirre et al., 2002. Conservation Medicine). Conservation Medicine is an outcome of the field of Conservation Biology, which formally began in the mid-1980s. This discipline traces the environmental sources of pathogens and pollutants; develops an understanding of the ecological causes of changes in human and animal health; and understand the ecological factors involved in disease outbreaks. It is typically a multidisciplinary approach involving wildlife biologists, researchers, and health professionals. An epizootic of severe cutaneous necrotizing fungal disease (Snake Fungal Disease, SFD) in a variety of wild snakes in the eastern U.S. was first noted in a population of Pigmy Rattlesnakes, Sistrurus miliarius barbouri (Cheatwood et al., 2003. Journal of Wildlife Diseases), followed by a similar appearing disease in northern populations of the timber rattlesnake and other snakes in the eastern US (Lorch et al., 2016. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B). Multiple investigators working independently have collectively come together to understand SFD and work toward recommendations for managing infected wild populations. When we look at the literature concerning Timber Rattlesnakes with SFD, we can see three lines of studies (resulting in publications) that ultimately come together to better understand the interaction between the pathogen Ophidiomyces ophiodiiocola (Sigler et al. 2013. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 51: 3,338–3,357), and genetic factors (Villareal et al. Journal of Heredity 87: 152–155; Rulon et al., 2008. Molecular Ecology 17: 1790–730), environmental factors (Rulon et al, 2011. Biological Conservation 144: 886–891), and immunologic factors (Elbers and Taylor, 2016. Herpetological Conservation Biology 11: 1–012) that are likely responsible for the emergence of this pathogen.

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